Paul tells us that the feasts of the law of Moses were a shadow or preview of things to come (Hebrews 10:1, Colossians 2:16–17). Specifically, the spring feasts foreshadowed Christ’s his atoning sacrifice and the fall feasts first and second comings. In this post, we’ll discuss the spring feasts. Once we have this knowledge, we’ll be ready to start building a proper timeline.
Passover & Unleavened Bread
We’re likely already familiar with some of the symbolism of this event. A sacrificial lamb is offered up and its blood saves the lives of the believers.
The lamb was selected on the 10th day of the month of Aviv (or Nisan using the Babylonian names). Because Israel used a lunar calendar, the beginning of Aviv varies from year to year, but it is during March or April (which is why the dates of Passover and Easter change every year).
3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:
4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.
5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:
6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
With every household needing its own sacrificial lamb, this would be a major endeavor to bring in enough lambs for the entire city of Jerusalem. Remember that every male in Israel was commanded to come up to Jerusalem for three feasts each year, one of them being Passover. That’s a lot of lambs.
From the tenth day to the fourteenth day, the lamb would stay at the house with the family where it could be inspected to ensure it was without blemish.
On the fourteenth day, final preparations began. All leaven needed to be purged from the house by sunset. The lamb needed to be certified to be without blemish and then sacrificed before sunset and placed into an oven to cook in time for the Passover meal that night. Josephus tells us the lambs were killed in the late afternoon.
War 6.9.3 422-427
So these high priests did so upon the arrival of their feast which is called the Passover. On this day they slay their sacrifices from the ninth hour [3 PM] until the eleventh [5 PM].
Once the sun set, the 15th day began and the Passover meal was eaten. No leavened bread was allowed for the next week. The day of Passover was a holy day, or a high sabbath. This didn’t necessarily fall on on Saturday. It was a separate sabbath from the weekly sabbath.
16 And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.
At the same time as the Feast of Unleavened Bread is going on, we also have the Firstfruits. This is when the spring crop of barley was ready to be harvested. Before anyone can eat of the new grain, a firstfruits offering must be made. This is to be made after the first weekly Sabbath after Passover. Depending on the year, that could be anywhere from one to seven days later.
10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:
11 And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.
14 You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.
Because Firstfruits happens after Passover, the Passover meal is required to use grain from the previous season for its unleavened bread.
Because of Israel’s lunar calendar, the calendar can quickly get out of sync with the seasons unless something is done to correct it. Israel used the ripening of the spring barley. If the lunar cycle was causing the calendar to creep too early into spring, the barley wouldn’t be ready to harvest and an additional month was added to the calendar. After this additional month, the barley would be ready to harvest and the Passover could begin.
It is from the Firstfruits, not Passover, that the counting of weeks begins to determine the 50 days until Pentecost. Firstfruits is always the day after the weekly Sabbath, whereas Passover can fall on any day of the week. Linking the date to Firstfruits ensures that Pentecost is always on the first day of the week, or Sunday.
15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:
16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord.
There is a popular idea that Pentecost commemorates the day God spoke the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai. There is no scriptural basis for this—nowhere in the scriptures are these two events linked. But it was one of the three feasts that all Israeli men were commanded to journey to Jerusalem to attend, so it appears to have had a larger significance than what our current scriptures indicate.
The next post will show how the final days of Christ’s life fulfilled the events of these spring feasts. We’ll use a close reading of the scriptures combined with our knowledge of these spring feasts to build a scripturally accurate timeline of the last week of Christ’s life.